Saturday, June 25, 2005

Worship, Dark and Steamy, for Murderers and Rapists

SUFFIELD, Conn. - Two dozen murderers, rapists and other felons sat unclothed save for shorts in the pitch darkness of a tent made of sticks and wool blankets that had been set up in the prison yard.

In the middle of the dirt floor, a pit had been dug and filled with rocks left in fire so long that any cracks glowed red. Cedar chips were thrown on the rocks, giving off a fragrance, and then lavender, sage and sweet grass.

When a bucket of water hit the rocks with a gasp, the tent, already nearly unbearably hot, filled with a weighty steam. Some of the inmates sat in meditative quiet; others were lighthearted, with one jokingly asking if anyone happened to have an Evian.